Since its introduction in the fall of 2008, the annual Cardboard Canoe Regatta has become a favorite event in the Principia community. Principia development officer Steve Shedd explained the occasion’s origin, saying, “[then-professor] Mike Rechlin and I dreamed it up.” Shedd added that the race was designed “for having fun, for sustainability, for experiential education and for the students.”
Shedd has been leading this event since its inception, establishing its location and determining the rules, among other responsibilities. In addition, he makes sure that everyone, from students to spectators, is having a good time.
Participants have the opportunity to build their own boat from scratch. Within their respective teams of two to four people, they are only allowed to use cardboard boxes, duct tape and paint for decorative styling. When asked how much time people put into making the boats, Shedd answered, “Not a lot. Some about 10 minutes, some maybe a couple of hours.” Sophomore Kalila Kalani claimed that her team built their boat in the shortest amount of time, saying,“We built it all [the day before the race]. It took about only an hour, maybe two. But overall, it was a lot of fun.”
This year’s race was held over homecoming weekend and was located at the confluence of Piasa Creek and the Mississippi River, a few miles down River Road from Principia. Six teams with two contestants each maneuvered the course, which extended 100 yards out into the harbor and back. The weather was colder than it had been in previous years, but that didn’t stop the contestants from running into the frigid water. Spectators cheered, but mostly laughed, as the boats sailed out… or capsized right after launching.
The first-place canoe, captained by sophomore Winnie Robinson, finished in 1 minute, 50 seconds. It was one of the fastest times ever recorded for the event. When asked if she was expecting to win the event beforehand, Robinson said, “No, we thought it was going to sink. We were told that we had the crappiest boat by multiple people. But we ended up winning so it was a lot of fun in the end.” The second, third and fourth place boats all managed to finish between a respectable two to four minutes. The final two boats met an unfortunate but entertaining end, sinking just inches away from the shore where they had launched.
Once again, the event turned out to be a great activity in which both the contestants and spectators enjoyed participating. Sophomore Preston Voges said that he was so happy with the event this year that he wants to come back to next year’s event and try to win it all. He added, “We could even use the same boat again if we wanted to.”
Shedd said that he hoped student participation would rise. Usually, there are around 12 teams that participate. “Prin used to gather tons of cardboard for us. This year, we didn’t have much cardboard at all. So I am hoping the new folks can amass lots of cardboard for next year, and we will be in good shape once again.”